Arkansas Off Grid Laws: An In-Depth Guide

Arkansas is known for its rural heritage and natural resources like lakes, mountains, and forests. Because of this, many people imagine living off-grid in a cabin or farm in Arkansas.

Before you act on your dream, know that living off grid legally in Arkansas can be challenging.

Want to know more about living off the grid? Read:

Is Living Off-Grid Legal in Arkansas?

Off-grid living is usually legal in Arkansas. The only state law that might make it illegal for you to go completely off-grid is a requirement to hook up to the municipal sewer system (and pay for it) if it is near your property.

In addition to the sewer law, Arkansas has many rules and regulations about which types of off-grid systems are allowed, how they must be installed, and permit requirements. If you want to install a large rainwater harvesting system, recycle greywater, or use something other than septic for waste, you will experience a lot of obstacles.

Local Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living in Arkansas

Remember that living off grid legally comes down to local codes and zoning regulations.

Many rural counties in Arkansas have relaxed zoning laws, meaning freedom to raise animals and farm. But a lack of rules also means your neighbors can do whatever they want.

Sometimes, it’s better to live in an area with detailed regulations so you don’t end up living next door to a smelly hog farm or a crowded subdivision.

Off-Grid Solar in Arkansas

Off-grid solar is entirely legal in Arkansas. Some rural counties have very relaxed regulations, and you may not even need a permit to install roof-mounted solar panels.

However, in most counties (even most rural ones), you will likely need a building and electric permits to install solar.

You may also be required to have a licensed master electrician install the solar system and have to get the system inspected after completion. The process is generally fast and easy, even when permits are required.

Also Read:

Off-Grid Wind Energy in Arkansas

The rules about installing wind turbines on your property in Arkansas are much more complicated than those about solar panels. You can expect local zoning regulations about the size and height of wind turbines allowed.

Frustratingly, many counties don’t mention wind turbines in their regulations, making it even more challenging to get their approval. You might also be prohibited from installing wind turbines because of EPA laws designed to protect birds or bats.

If you want to install larger wind turbines or systems that will disturb more than 1 acre of land, you’ll have to get a Stormwater Construction General Permit. You can read more about the Arkansas state wind turbine rules here.

Off-Grid Water Laws

Surface Water

You can legally use the surface water on or next to your land in Arkansas. You don’t need any permits to use the water so long as you “share the water supply with other riparian users.”  The water must be put to “beneficial use.”

If you use more than 1 acre-foot (325,851 gallons) of surface water per year, you must report your water usage to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

You can even use surface water that isn’t connected to your property, such as by diverting water from a nearby stream. However, in this case, it would be considered a non-riparian withdrawal, and you’d need to get a permit first. Currently, the permit application for non-riparian water use costs $500.

Well Water

You will need a permit to construct a well in Arkansas. The permitting process varies depending on which county you live in.

The well driller must have an Arkansas Water Well Contractor’s License. There is a separate certification required for installing the well pump.   These certifications are not easy to get, so digging your own well in Arkansas is not feasible.

In general, Arkansas is a water-rich state. However, there are several designated Critical Groundwater areas. In a time of drought, withdrawals from wells in these areas may be regulated – though it has never happened and would require significant legislation before any limits were imposed.

Non-domestic well water users who can withdraw  50,000 gallons daily (35 gpm flow rate)  must report their monthly withdrawals to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

Rainwater

Rainwater harvesting exists in a legal gray zone in Arkansas. The state currently uses the 2006 Plumbing Code. The code only mentions rainwater captured in cisterns and allows it “where a potable public water supply is not available.”

However, there are proposed updates to the 2006 Code. These modernize the code to specifically mention rainwater harvesting under “Non-potable Water Systems.”

Under the proposed updates, rainwater harvesting systems would be legal under these conditions:

  • Is designed by a professional engineer licensed in Arkansas
  • Has appropriate cross-connection safeguards
  • Complies with Arkansas Plumbing Code

It’s unclear whether these regulations mean you must get a licensed engineer for even simple harvesting systems (which would be ridiculous and a huge burden).

Despite the lack of clarity about rainwater harvesting rules in Arkansas, many people in the state still collect rainwater. The state even encourages it and mentions it on government websites.

So long as you aren’t creating a nuisance and keeping things clean, you shouldn’t have any legal problems harvesting rainwater in barrels in Arkansas – but stay informed about any updates to the law.

Also Read:

Sewage and Waste Removal

As with most states, sewage treatment is where you will encounter the most legal regulations. The law states that if your home is located within 300 feet of a sewer line, you must connect to it; you will not be legally allowed to use any onsite sewage treatment system.

If you live away from a sewer line and want to use an off-grid method, you must get a permit first. The Arkansas Department of Health issues permits. You must submit system plans and layout, soil test results, a percolation test, and other information. After construction, you’ll need to have the system inspected, and only then will you get a Permit for Operation.

You can read the full Arkansas rules and regulations for onsite wastewater systems here.

Can I build my own septic tank?

Arkansas allows many types of septic tanks. However, you won’t be able to build your own septic system. They must be made by licensed individuals. Becoming a licensed manufacturer is impractical because you’d need equipment (such as vacuum testing equipment for leakage) to test your DIY septic tanks before they could get approval.

Compost Toilets

Compost toilets are legal in Arkansas but must be approved under NSF standard 41. You can even use only a compost toilet in your home. Waste from the compost can be buried onsite or taken to a landfill.

If your home also has running water, you’ll need an approved method for removing the graywater. This usually means septic. If you have a larger property, you might be able to use soil absorption, but the system will need to meet requirements and a permit.

Also Read:

Graywater Recycling

Under the Appendix C of the 2006 Arkansas Plumbing Code, graywater recycling systems are legal. The law allows you to use graywater from bathtubs, showers, lavatories, clothes washers, and laundry trays for flushing toilets or urinals or for subsurface irrigation.

There are also strict rules to follow, including ones that require you to install gray water holding tanks, dye gray water a different color, and disinfect graywater before use.

Many people in Arkansas still use graywater to water their gardens, but it isn’t technically legal. There may be some legal workarounds, but you’d have to check with your local county.

Outhouses/Latrines

Under Arkansas state law, outhouses are not legal. You can’t even use an outhouse while building your property; you’ll need to get an approved compost toilet or rent portable toilets from a licensed company.

Also Read:

Can I Install My Own Septic Tank or Alternative System in Arkansas?

Arkansas law says that all onsite sewage systems (including septic and alternative systems) must be approved by a licensed installer.

If you want to install your own system, you must get a license first. You’ll also need to be licensed to repair or clean out your waste system.

The licensing process isn’t too difficult, though. It involves attending training sessions and then taking a test.

Do you live off grid in Arkansas? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.

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  1. We live in Arkansas, the southern part of the state. We bought our house on the cheap at a tax sale, and once moved in disconnected all public utilities. We are totally solar during the summer and use a genny in the winter, heat and cook with wood/propane, and use a composting toilet. Our work arounds were the fact that the house was already here so no need for permits(permission) and we NEVER asked about any of the other stuff. Yes the local water co knows we do not have a water hook up. We requested it removed, and all homes here in the boonies are on septic tanks. The best advice to living off grid is to be quiet about it, live outside any town or city, and keep your place tidy as possible.

    Reply
    • And, yes, excellent point about an existing home being a workaround. It’s a lot easier to disconnect an existing home than to try to get permits and meet building codes for a home which isn’t grid-connected.

      Reply
  2. Obtaining a permit for an on-site septic system is the only state requirement for building in Arkansas, so even if you live outside of a city’s limits, one still must be obtained. It’s not difficult or expensive. It’s for everyone’s health & safety, and I appreciate that. I don’t want some chucklehead to be DIY-ing a “system” right next to my well! And, I don’t want to drive through someone’s sh*t river on the way to my property. Other than that, in my county in AR, I can build whatever I want.

    Reply
  3. What happened to being to live life on land that you own with out forever being in debt to someone else for things we could easily obtain. understandably health regulations are certainly a must but its sad to see this country producing a bunch of individuals whom would starve or freeze if the electricity was cut. no more basic life skills, just unappreciative children who have to much time to think about what others think instead of what they need to do to get a meal or stay warm or even how much it takes to power that t.v.

    Reply
    • Of course they’d starve or freeze. Most everyone lives in cities. They can’t grow gardens and can’t grow firewood. That isn’t thier fault. We in the country rely on them too. I also used to be bitter. It’s much more fun to understand that our own small world isn’t, and doesn’t have to be, the same as everyone else’s. That’s what freedom is all about. People don’t learn skills they don’t need.

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      • Just wanted to point out that there are actually really cool ways to garden in cities. And I’m not talking about a bucket garden or rooftop setup. There are amazing systems which use advanced technology to grow huge amounts of food in small spaces indoors. Not only is production high, but being able to grow food in cities in a modern way encourages more young people to become farmers (which is a big deal considering how few youth want to live in rural areas now)

        Reply
    • I 1000% agree with you, I want to raise my son on the land and teach him like my father and grandfather taught me. It’s a shame that legally you’re not allowed to do this anymore. I’m building a tiny home for him and I and was told I couldn’t have a well installed because a water line was recently added within 100 feet from my property line and I have to connect to it. I grey up on a farm in Carlisle Arkansas we had two ditches our houses water flowed into one was black that you stayed away from and the other was soapy and that was that. Not to mention you have to pay for a permit to do anything!!! That don’t require you to do anything but pay it?? Makes no sense at all

      Reply
    • My Boyfriends “GRANDMOTHER (now deceased)” was born in “DIERKS ARKANSAS”.
      Him, his Mother, both Aunts, and his older sister were all born in
      “DE QUEEN ARKANSAS”.
      And hearing about this has really got him “STEAMED” to say the least,
      And he holler while reading this:
      “WHAT THE @@@ HAS HAPPENED TO THE STATE WHERE I BORN AND RAISED!!”
      His Grandparents house
      “NEVER HAD”:
      (1) INDOOR PLUMBING,
      THEY HAD A WELL, BUCKET.
      (2) HAD A TWO SEATER OUTHOUSE,
      IN CASE MOTHER NATURE WAS
      TALKING TO BOTH AT THE SAME
      TIME.
      And this was still like that there in
      “DE QUEEN ARKANSAS” in 1990!

      He asks angrily is “ARKANSAS” or did “TEXAS” ANNEXED ARKANSAS?!!
      This SHAMES HIM EXTREMELY,
      He yells.

      Reply
  4. Hey, just FYI—Arkansas property owners are allowed to install their own septic systems and the Department of Health is pretty helpful providing guidance to people who are doing this. There is no way to design your own system, however, without getting a license to do so—meaning that you need to pay someone to do your design but then you can install the system on your own.

    Reply
    • Hello, I’ve got my plans and a perk test is recorded. Can I just purchase my tank and lines and go?? I am building a small house and trying to save money.

      Reply

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